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Migration News Brief 4.10.20

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A compilation of recent top articles and reports related to issues of U.S. immigration and enforcement policy and migration from Central America and Mexico (articles in English and Spanish). Please feel free to send us recommendations or requests for upcoming news briefs: lalvarez@lawg.org.


Press Release: 60+ U.S.-Based Organizations Demand Halt to Deportations during COVID-19
Latin America Working Group, April 8, 2020
“The Latin America Working Group (LAWG) joins more than sixty U.S. based human rights, public health, border, faith-based, and immigrant-led organizations in a statement demanding that the Trump Administration halt all deportations during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Voces from Casa del Migrante de Saltillo: The Effects of U.S. Policy on Mexican Migrant Shelters
Emily Froude, Latin America Working Group, April 7, 2020
“This past March, Javier Martínez of Casa del Migrante de Saltillo, was in Washington D.C. as part of a Peace Brigades International delegation to visit with lawmakers and U.S. advocacy groups. Located in the northern part of Mexico, Casa del Migrante hosts and provides humanitarian assistance to migrants and asylum seekers, some who are on their journey toward the United States.”


US Enforcement

U.S. has expelled thousands of migrants under coronavirus public health order
Stef W. Knight, Axios, April 9, 2020
“The order has drastically lowered the number of immigrants in CBP custody to fewer than 100, the agency’s acting commissioner Mark Morgan told reporters on Thursday. The number of people coming into the U.S. overall has plummeted due to coronavirus-related travel bans in place at both the northern and southern borders.”

Trump quietly shuts down asylum at US borders to fight virus
Maria Verza, Elliot Spagat, and Astrid Galvan, Reuters, April 9, 2020
“A U.S. Border Patrol agent wouldn’t let Jackeline Reyes explain why she and her 15-year-old daughter needed asylum, pointing to the coronavirus. That confrontation in Texas came just days after the Trump administration quietly shut down the nation’s asylum system for the first time in decades in the name of public health.”

A Woman Gave Birth In A Border Patrol Station Still Wearing Her Pants. Now The Agents Involved Are Being Accused Of Abuse
Emma O’Connor, BuzzFeed News, April 8, 2020
“They were in the midst of being processed by agents at the Chula Vista Border Patrol Station near San Diego, and she had repeatedly asked the agents for help, telling them how much pain she was in. Instead, she was repeatedly told to sit down and wait to be processed, she said.”

Guatemala to resume deportation flights from US next week 
AP News, April 8, 2020 
“Guatemala’s Foreign Affairs ministry also said the Central American country was preparing temporary reception centers for migrants deported by the U.S on an air force base so they could be monitored in line with health protocols.”

Pese a pandemia, El Salvador ha recibido a 800 retornados desde Estados Unidos
Xenia Oliva y Evelia Hernández, ElSalvador.com, 8 de abril de 2020
“Respecto a la contradicción de seguir recibiendo los vuelos con personas retornadas, al mismo tiempo que el gobierno ha dicho que no se puede recibir a los otros salvadoreños que se mantienen varados alrededor del mundo, Cucalón dijo que es porque los demás ‘no están controlados’”.

Guatemala reclama a EUA por deportaciones y a El Salvador por manejo de información
AFP / El Faro, 8 de abril de 2020
“El gobierno de Guatemala ha exigido a Estados Unidos mayores controles sanitarios y una reducción en la cantidad de personas en los vuelos de deportados tras la reciente detección de dos casos de coronavirus entre migrantes expulsados”.

3rd Guatemalan tests positive for virus after US deportation
Sonia Pérez D., Associated Press, Yahoo News, April 7, 2020
“The Health Ministry said the latest positive case was a 37-year-old man who was deported March 26 from Mesa, Arizona, and had been in quarantine since his return. Two other deportees, ages 29 and 31, from the same flight already tested positive. The plane had carried 41 Guatemalans, including 10 children.”

U.S. deports 400 migrant children under new coronavirus rules
Ted Hesson and Mica Rosenberg, Reuters, April 7, 2020
“Around 120 of the minors, who arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border without a parent or legal guardian, were quickly sent on planes back to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, according to data from March 27 to April 2. It was not clear whether the remainder of the children intercepted at the border were pushed back to Mexico or returned to their home countries during the preceding week.”

ICE to deport Haitians despite coronavirus concerns
Monique O. Madan and Jacqueline Charles, Miami Herald, April 6, 2020
“Immigration lawyers and advocates say at least 14 Haitian nationals are scheduled to board a deportation flight from Alexandria, Louisiana, to Port-au-Prince Tuesday. Among the passengers is a detainee who had been exposed to the coronavirus while in immigration lockup at two different facilities.”

Two workers at ICE detention center in Miami-Dade test positive for coronavirus
Monique O. Madan, Miami Herald, April 6, 2020
“For about a month, ICE has published on its website the number of confirmed coronavirus cases for its detainees and federal employees nationwide. As of Monday afternoon, 13 detainees and seven ICE detention center employees nationwide have tested positive for the virus.However, those numbers do not reflect the number of third-party contractors that work at ICE facilities who have tested positive for COVID-19. It also doesn’t make mention of how many people at their facilities have been tested or are being monitored for the virus.”

‘We’re gonna die’: migrants in US jail beg for deportation due to Covid-19 exposure
Sam Levin, The Guardian, April 4, 2020
“Three men incarcerated at the Winn correctional center in a remote part of Louisiana told the Guardian that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) has isolated 44 of them together after they were possibly exposed to coronavirus. Some of the detainees are so desperate to leave that they are seeking voluntary deportation. They say their cries for masks, hand sanitizer, gloves and cleaning supplies have gone ignored, including for elderly detainees and those with asthma.”

Undocumented workers among those hit first — and worst — by the coronavirus shutdown
Tracy Jan, Washington Post, April 4, 2020
“Many of the undocumented, working in construction, restaurants and other service sectors, have already lost their jobs. Others, in industries like agriculture and health care that have been declared essential, work in jobs that typically require close quarters or interacting with the public, putting them at higher risk of getting sick.”

Details on Border Patrol’s new migrant-expulsion effort begin to emerge
Curt Prendergast, Tucson.com, April 4, 2020
“The agency has not yet said how many migrants have been expelled under the new measures or whether any agents or migrants have tested positive for COVID-19. When agents encounter migrants, they take them to field processing stations set up recently near ports of entry. Agents take their fingerprints and check for a criminal history. They then drive them in vans to ports of entry and the migrants walk into Mexico.”

As Tijuana Locks Down, Migrants At U.S.-Mexico Border Stuck In Dangerous Limbo
Erin Siegal McIntyre, HuffPost, April 3, 2020
“And there’s nowhere else to go: The U.S. closed its border to asylum-seekers, Mexico suspended refugee processing, and many migrants are afraid to go home to their native countries, even if it were safe to travel. That leaves many migrants stuck near the U.S.-Mexico border, vulnerable to both the coronavirus and other dangers.”

Leaked Border Patrol Memo Tells Agents to Send Migrants Back Immediately — Ignoring Asylum Law
Dara Lind, ProPublica, April 2, 2020
“The Trump administration has been publicly vague on what happens under the new policy to migrants expressing a fear of persecution or torture, the grounds for asylum. But the guidance provided to Border Patrol agents makes clear that asylum-seekers are being turned away unless they can persuade both a Border Patrol agent — as well as a higher-ranking Border Patrol official — that they will be tortured if sent home. There is no exception for those who seek protection on the basis of their identities, such as race or religion.”

Life On The U.S.-Mexico Frontier Dramatically Altered By Partial Border Shutdown
John Burnett, NPR, March 28, 2020
“In the long history of these twin frontier cities, there’s never been anything like the coronavirus border shutdown. Never — not even after Sept. 11 — has the U.S. government closed all 7,479 miles of borders with Mexico and Canada.”


Mexican Enforcement

Denuncian que INAMI obligó a Hondureños a cruzar ilegalmente a Guatemala
Tania Aguayo, LatinUs, 8 de abril de 2020 
“Los dividieron en grupos de 5 o 6 personas para salir cada hora a partir de las 2 de la madrugada. En la mayoría de esos grupos había mujeres con niños y bebés. Asi, poco a poco, se dispersó el contingente de cerca de 80 personas enviadas desde Reynosa hasta la frontera de Tabasco con Guatemala”.

INM abandona a 480 migrantes en la línea fronteriza de México con Guatemala
Isaín Mandujano, Proceso, 8 de abril de 2020
“Más de 480 migrantes de Honduras, Guatemala y El Salvador fueron abandonados por el Instituto Nacional de Migración (INM) en la línea fronteriza de México con Guatemala, luego de que el gobierno de este último país rechazó el ingreso de los centroamericanos tras sellar su frontera por la pandemia del covid-19”.

Mantiene Guardia Nacional vigilancia de la frontera
Luis Carlos Cano, El Diario de Juárez, 6 de abril de 2020
“Oficialmente no se dio a conocer alguna información del por qué del operativo, pero trascendió que es parte de las acciones de la Guardia Nacional para evitar el flujo de migrantes indocumentados en la línea fronteriza, actividad que mantendrán por tiempo indefinido y en distintos puntos de esta zona”.

Tras motín en Tenosique, migrantes exigen visa humanitaria
Armando Guzmán, Proceso, 5 de abril de 2020
“Migrantes que se amotinaron en la estación de Tenosique el 31 de marzo, cuando murió una persona y varias resultaron heridas, exigieron que se les otorgue constancias de refugiados y visa humanitaria ‘por haber sido víctimas de delitos por parte de autoridades’”.

México detuvo arbitrariamente a dos migrantes y debe pagarles una indemnización: ONU
Alberto Pradilla, Animal Politico, 5 de abril de 2020
“Apenas había puesto un pie en México cuando fue arrestado por agentes del Instituto Nacional de Migración (INM) que lo encerraron en la estación migratoria Siglo XXI. Pidió protección a la Comisión Mexicana de Ayuda al Refugiado (Comar) y permaneció en cautividad durante casi un año. Ahora el grupo de trabajo de la ONU sobre detención arbitraria considera que el salvadoreño fue víctima de una detención inmotivada y pide a México una reparación del daño, así como una indemnización”.

Coronavirus Exacerbates Dangers for Migrants in Mexican Detention
Rachel Schmidtke, Refugees International, April 3, 2020
“Conditions in Mexico’s migration stations have been criticized for years. But as the COVID-19 pandemic spreads across the country, the new risks facing detained migrants and asylum seekers in these migration stations are revealing longstanding issues.”

Ante los riesgos por el COVID-19: Exigimos la libertad inmediata de todas las personas migrantes, refugiadas y solicitantes de asilo en detención migratoria
Alianza Americas, 2 de abril de 2020
“Las organizaciones, redes de la sociedad civil y universidades firmantes, manifestamos nuestra profunda indignación y preocupación ante los hechos ocurridos en estaciones migratorias (EM) a cargo del Instituto Nacional de Migración (INM), en específico las ubicadas en Villahermosa y Tenosique, Tabasco, así como la Siglo XXI en Tapachula, Chiapas”.


Root Causes 

La cuarentena por Covid19 es aprovechada para acciones contra personas defensoras de los territorios
Heidy Dávila, Pasos de Animal Grande, 7 de abril de 2020
“Las personas defensoras del territorio, medio ambiente y derechos humanos, son los grupos que más sufren abusos en la República de Honduras, durante el estado de emergencia se han agudizado algunos casos como el asesinato de una defensora del sur”.

In Guatemala, Coronavirus Brings a New Schedule—and yet More Struggle—for Trans Women and Sex Workers
Pia Flores, El Faro, April 2, 2020
“‘We have the same fear of getting sick as anyone else. But, here we are, out of sheer necessity, and the fact we don’t have access to a dignified job,’ says Valeska García, who now works from 5 a.m. to 3 p.m.”

Honduras aims to ensure food supply with plantings on unoccupied land
Gustavo Palencia, Reuters, April 8, 2020
“Honduras will spur planting of grains, vegetables and fruit on unoccupied land as it intervenes in the agroindustrial sector to ensure the food supply amid the spreading coronavirus pandemic, President Juan Orlando Hernandez said on Tuesday.”

Virus Crisis Cuts Off Billions Sent to Poor Around the World
Associated Press, New York Times, April 7, 2020
“In the Honduran town of Villa Nueva Cortez, Hernández’s mother Teonila Murillo is running out of money to buy insulin for her diabetes, and Hernández’s brother doesn’t know if he’ll be able to make his $60 rent next month.”

Copinh alerta que dos asesinos de Berta Cáceres podrían ser liberados en Honduras
teleSUR, 7 de abril de 2020
“El Consejo Cívico de Organizaciones Populares e Indígenas de Honduras (Copinh) alertó este martes que autoridades estatales y judiciales de ese país podrían dejar en libertad, aprovechando el contexto de la pandemia por el nuevo coronavirus (Covid-19), a dos de los asesinos condenados por la muerte de la activista Berta Cáceres”.

Bukele’s Quarantine Meets the Reality of Poverty
El Faro, April 5, 2020
“The president, as if he did not already have enough challenges, continues to see an enemy in every critic and in each limit to his power. He insists on rallying his base against the Legislative Assembly. Last Sunday, he accused human rights organizations of claiming “more human beings die” due to their reports of police abuse during the state of emergency. On Wednesday, he even declared that we must “stop arguing” whether his measures against the pandemic are constitutional or not.”

Bukele y organizaciones de derechos en polémica en la emergencia por COVID-19
Gabriela Villarroel, El Mundo, 31 de abril de 2020
“Defensores de derechos humanos locales han sido críticos del estado de excepción, que se prorrogó el fin de semana a través de un nuevo decreto. Detenciones arbitrarias, uso de la fuerza y condiciones en centros de contención han sido denunciadas por Tutela Legal, Cristosal y el Instituto de Derechos Humanos de la Universidad Centroamericana José Simeón Cañas (Idhuca)”.

OACNUDH condena la muerte de la defensora Iris Argentina Álvarez Chávez e insta a una investigación pronta y exhaustiva de los hechos
OACNUDH, 4 de abril de 2020
“En este sentido, El Grupo de Trabajo instó a las empresas a cumplir con la obligación de ejercer la debida diligencia antes de iniciar operaciones en tierras habitadas o utilizadas por las comunidades para su sustento. También reiteró el deber del Estado de adoptar las medidas efectivas contra los desalojos forzosos, de conformidad con las normas internacionales de derechos humanos y garantizar que las víctimas tengan acceso a un recurso efectivo que les permita la restitución de sus posesiones, el regreso a su hogar o tierra y una indemnización adecuada”.

Mexico murder rate reaches new high as violence rages amid Covid-19 spread
David Agren, The Guardian, April 3, 2020
“‘It’s business as usual [for drug cartels] with a risk of further escalation, especially if at some point the armed forces are called away for pandemic control,’ said Falko Ernst, senior Mexico analyst at the International Crisis Group. Violence has flared throughout the country, but it has been especially intense in the central state of Guanajuato, where criminal groups have battled over lucrative territories rife with theft from pipelines.”

La violencia sigue su curso entre la pandemia
Fernando Silva, Contra Corriente, 3 de abril de 2020
“En Honduras, la estrategia para detener la propagación del virus ha sido liderada por la Secretaría de Seguridad y las Fuerzas Armadas, quienes además de entregar víveres y confeccionar mascarillas han sido denunciados por violar derechos humanos y se han mostrado incapaces de frenar la cantidad de muertes violentas en el país”.

El Salvador homicides drop; experts point to virus lock-down
Marcos Aleman, Associated Press, Washington Post, April 1, 2020
“‘The quarantine is without doubt one of the variables that is causing a reduction of homicides, because when there are limits on movement, it is harder for gang members and other criminals to move around unnoticed,’ said Juan Carlos Fernández Saca at José Matías Delgado University.”

What Does Coronavirus Mean for Criminal Governance in Latin America?
Parker Asmann, InSight Crime, March 31, 2020
“A number of criminal groups across Latin America are ordering ceasefires and exerting control over local communities as fears of the coronavirus sweep across the region, raising questions about how these groups will use this crisis to further their legitimacy and power.”

IMF provides $143 mln to Honduras for pandemic response
Reuters, March 31, 2020
“The International Monetary Fund on Tuesday said it had approved a disbursement of $143 million to Honduras to help it fund increased healthcare and social spending as part of its response to the rapidly spreading coronavirus pandemic.”


Actions, Alerts, Resources 

USA: ‘We are adrift, about to sink’: The looming COVID-19 disaster in United States immigration detention facilities
Amnesty International, April 7, 2020
“Amnesty International has received credible, consistent, and disturbing accounts by detainees of dangerous conditions in ICE’s immigration detention facilities, which needlessly put all those detained there at a higher risk of contracting Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). For detainees who are older or have underlying medical conditions, such exposure is more likely to be fatal.”

Protecting Detained Immigrant Children and Families from COVID-19: FAQs on Flores v. Barr and O.M.G. v. Wolf
Women’s Refugee Commission, April 6, 2020
“We share the grave concerns of the Plaintiffs for the health and safety of detained immigrant children and families and welcome robust oversight by the federal courts. We call on ICE and ORR to fulfill their obligations — and fully comply with the courts’ orders — to ensure the protection of these vulnerable populations from COVID-19.”

A Demographic Profile of DACA Recipients on the Frontlines of the Coronavirus Response
Nicole Prchal Svajlenka, Center for American Progress, April 6, 2020
“This column looks at the demographics of DACA recipients who are working on the frontlines of the COVID-19 response, highlighting three inextricably linked industries and occupation groups identified as “essential critical infrastructure workers” by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).”

Latin America: Cut Prison Crowding to Fight COVID-19
Human Rights Watch, April 2, 2020
“Governments in Latin America and the Caribbean should consider alternatives to prison for certain categories of detainees who do not threaten public security, Human Rights Watch said. For each of these categories, the authorities should determine whether conditions of release, such as the use of electronic anklets, house arrest, or others, are needed to monitor the people involved.”

Crisis de Derechos Humanos durante la pandemia de COVID-19
Comité de Familiares de Detenidos Desaparecidos en Honduras, 2 de abril de 2020
“El documento claramente no tiene por objeto repetir instrucciones sanitarias por demás importantes ni cuantificar la actualidad cambiante de la pandemia, sino como es lógico suponer, ocuparse del contexto hondureño en el cual ocurre esta conmoción nacional y de sus efectos en Derechos Humanos a nivel nacional”.

Honduran Police Abuse Pandemic Powers, Local Activists Push Back
Fund for Global Human Rights, April 1, 2020
“The Honduran government has responded to the spread of COVID-19 by imposing exceptional emergency measures, including a police-enforced curfew for the entire country until April 12. But in a country where embattled activists and advocates live in near-constant fear for their lives, the recent arrests of two human rights [defenders] have many worried that state and local authorities will use COVID-19 as pretext to stamp out opposition to the country’s scandal-ridden president.”

Ripe for Reform: Abuse of Agricultural Workers in the H-2A Visa Program
Centro de los Derechos del Migrante
“Based on in-depth interviews with 100 workers across Mexico who came to the U.S. on these visas in the last four years, it documents discrimination, sexual harassment, wage theft, and health and safety violations by their employers — and a startling lack of recourse for workers.It also analyzes how in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the program’s systemic flaws exacerbate workers’ vulnerability to the virus.”

Another Month in Honduras…Human Rights Monitor – March 2020
Daniel Langmeier, Honduras Forum Switzerland
“COVID-19..Welcome to another month in Honduras. What else is there to say? The worldwide pandemic reached Honduras this month, where it met an autocratic regime, widespread corruption and an already overwhelmed health system which is already suffering from a severe dengue crisis.”